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Eur J Appl Physiol. 2004 Mar;91(2-3):349-52. Epub 2003 Nov 29.

Activation of agonist and antagonist muscles at different joint angles during maximal isometric efforts.

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  • 1Department of Life Science, University of Tokyo, Komaba 3-8-1 Meguro-ku, 153-8902, Tokyo, Japan.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of different angles of the knee joint on the activation level of an agonist (quadriceps femoris muscle) and antagonist (biceps femoris muscle) from electromyographic activities and activation levels (twitch interpolation). Isometric torque measurements were performed on 23 healthy subjects at 10 degrees intervals between 40 degrees and 110 degrees of knee joint flexion. Superimposed twitches at maximal voluntary contraction were applied and the voluntary activation estimated. To quantify the antagonist muscle activity, we normalized its integrated EMG (iEMG) value at each joint angle with respect to its iEMG value at the same angle when acting as an agonist at maximal effort. The activation levels at the knee-flexed position (80-110 degrees ) were higher than that at the knee-extended position (40-70 degrees ). The co-activation levels at 90, 100, and 110 degrees were significantly higher than that the other knee angle. These results suggest that the activation level of an agonist (quadriceps femoris) muscle and the co-activation level of an antagonist (biceps femoris) muscle were higher in longer muscles than in shorter muscles. It was also concluded that the risk of knee injuries could be reduced by applying these mutual relationships between activation levels of agonist and antagonist muscles.

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